Green shoots

A few years ago I was given a Garland electric windowsill propagator for Christmas and from that point on, I have grown all my vegetables from seed.  Am so pleased with it as within a few days, the seeds germinate. Takes away all the worry about whether they will germinate or not.

After a blog-searching expedition a few weeks ago, I came across a gardening blog and read a post from a member who had already sown their tomatoes, in an unheated greenhouse.

Not wanting to be left behind, last Friday I sowed some of my tomato seeds. Gardeners’ Delight, a cherry tomato, which is an old favourite, very prolific and beautifully sweet.  Ailsa Craig, a sweet, medium-sized tomato that I have never grown before and …. marigolds.


The marigolds germinated very quickly – I could see them coming through on Sunday. The tomatoes were showing on Tuesday. Brilliant, eh?!! My other tomato seeds, an Italian beefsteak tomato, will be sown in a few weeks time.

The novice veg grower may well be asking why the marigolds? Well, several years ago my greenhouse was plagued with greenfly, the seedling’s greatest enemy! They suck sap and the seedling will die unless drastic action is taken. It was devastating. I try to grow my crops without using chemicals, so I had to douse everything with soapy (Fairy Liquid will do) water which should kill the little perishers. Remember to search on the underside of the leaves though, as that is where they love to congregate.

Hearing about my greenfly problems a colleague recommended growing marigolds among the tomatoes in the greenhouse. I’ve done this ever since, and haven’t seen a single greenfly, so it obviously works.

Since sowing my tomatoes I have found my notebook from last year and I noticed that I sowed them on the 7th March ! Oh dear, will just have to pray that the freezing nights are a thing of the past. They say that seedlings will survive at 10 degrees and above. Oer, think I have been a bit premature.  Might have to sow some more in March, never mind.

Next job? Clear out all the geraniums from the greenhouse, into the spare stable and give the inside of the greenhouse a good clean …. then prick out and pot on the seedlings.



The Photo Gallery: Week 131

This week’s theme is ‘girls’. Well, my girls, with whom you might already be familiar, if you are following me on this journey, are my lovely two kitten-cats. Well, they’re not kitten-cats any longer as they are 19 months old, can’t believe that time flies so fast these days.

Maisie and Minnie

Maisie and Minnie

Minnie and Maisie are very different. Minnie is much bigger than Minnie and is predominately ginger and white with tabby tinges. She eats a lot, loves to be outside, has quite slow reactions (though she is a good hunter), loves lolling about on the back of the settee or my lap. She loves affection, but hates to be picked up. She is a big softee and will never scratch you. She takes no notice if you tell her off,  she’s thick-skinned and does exactly as she pleases.

Minnie, on the other hand, is small and lithe and quick as a flash. Very intelligent and nervous. She just loves to be with me. Even if it’s chucking it down with rain, she’ll trot out to the stable behind me, waiting till all is done and then scampers back to the house in ahead of me. She loves to sit on my lap when I’m cleaning my teeth and will come up to bed with me.

Sadly, there is an undercurrant of sibling rivalry and I can see them both, whether at the end of the bed, or near me in the sitting room glaring at each other. If they could talk they’d be saying, “Don’t you dare sit on her lap, that’s my place!” Sometimes Maisie will go for poor little Minnie and I am sure it is just that she’s jealous. They are ‘my girlies’ and I love them dearly!

A difficult decision

Six, or maybe 7, years ago we (my ex partner and I) decided we would like some hens. Well, to be honest, it was probably me who decided and he went along with it!

Dotty, a Cuckoo Maran, Hetty a Speckled Maran, and Aggie and Betty, two Black Rocks were, you  might say, my foundation stock. I bought them from an ol’boy who I thought was a breeder, but who turned out to be a bit of a wheeler dealer, as they say.

All four hens were pretty wild, although Betty did become approachable in time. She used to sit on the spade when my ex was digging-over the veg plot. They were very clever (who says that chickens are dumb?) because whenever they saw the fork or spade they would waddle after you as they knew that worms would be in the offing.

Grumpy Dotty

Grumpy Dotty

After a couple of years, we were in the garden one early summer’s day and Hetty (the Alpha hen) hurtled past us. Catching a glimpse of bright red on her breast we thought that she had injured herself. Trying to catch her was out of the question… like her three comrades in arms,  she was unapproachable. After some investigations, trying to look as closely as we could, we came to the conclusion that her flesh wasn’t broken but was livid red and devoid of feathers. We then discovered that the feathers were all in the nest box, and after doing some internet research we came to the conclusion that she was broody, and indeed she was.

We built her a broody coop and bought 6 hatching eggs, including a couple of blue cream legbar eggs, and a Welsummer egg gifted by my neighbour. 22 or 23 traumatic days later, the eggs started to hatch. I say ‘traumatic’ because Hetty was such a good hen she just sat on ‘her’ eggs, refusing all sustinance or inducements to take a walk. After 10 days I was physically pushing her off the eggs (what the experts would have said, god only knows) and covering the eggs with a towel. During those days she hardly ate or drank anything.

The outcome was 4 chicks. The other eggs didn’t hatch. Two Rhode Island Reds, a Cream Legbar and a Welsummer. One Rhode Island Red, Boris, and the Cream Legbar, Ozzie, were obviously cockerals. My neighbour took them, we thought to breed with because they were purebreds, but I have a sneaking suspicion  that they ended up in the pot, which, between  you and me, we were very sad about.

That left Winnie the Welsummer and my lovely Rosie the Rhode Island Red. Sadly Rosie died 2 weeks after getting over an oviduct infection. She had Marek’s disease which paralyses their legs.

We lost the two Black Rocks and, in 2009, we added two more to our dwindling flock. A Buff Orpington, aka Buffy and a Light Sussex we named Polly. Sadly, a couple of years later lovely Hetty, Mother Hen, died. Just leaving Dotty, Winnie, Polly and Buffy.

Hetty hen

Hetty hen

Dotty is in her 9th year and although she laid two or three eggs last year, her egg-laying days are over. Her eggs have always been speckled with blood, so had she been in a commercial flock, she would probably would have been culled at the end of her first year. So she has had a good life with me. Winnie is 6 this year, as are the other two.  She has only ever been ‘on the lay’ for 3 months of the year, god knows why. Last year she probably only laid half a dozen eggs.

The difficult decision is what do I do with Dotty and Winnie? I have to say that neither of them are very nice, and neither of them are friendly. Dotty is a bit aggressive with the others and Winnie drives me mad because she won’t come in at the end of the day. I have to get booted and coated up, wooly hat as well, just to go outside to get her in before Charlie fox catches her!

Winnie Welsummer

Winnie Welsummer

Last year I felt the time had come to send them to chicken heaven, but I certainly couldn’t despatch them myself. I asked my neighbour if he could do the dastardly deed and he said that he would, just remind him. That was nearly a year ago and I haven’t reminded him. Can’t bring myself to do it. I am finding it difficult to come to terms with actually having an animal’s life terminated. It’s different if they are terminally ill or suffering, then there is no choice, but just because they are too old to lay eggs, and are not very nice characters, is that enough of an excuse to chop off their heads? Am I being too sentimental? Would you be able to do it?


Getting old….

Most of my adult life I’ve had to fend for myself as, the majority of the time, I lived on my own. I used to spend most of my spare time creating a cosy  home – decorating, diy, gardening and riding, competing and caring for my horse. Gradually, after moving to the cottage 22 years ago, I stopped riding and competing my horse, as I was far too busy creating a rose garden, building trellises and rose tunnels and sorting out the cottage.

Then, when 11 years ago, my then partner moved in with his cat and his horse, I let him take over the more mundane tasks, drilling holes in walls, putting up shelves and generally fixing things. I gradually stopped decorating or tending my gardening.

Instead, my poor horse was dragged out of retirement and most weekends were taken up with grooming and going out for lovely long rides together, sometimes three hours or more. We loved being together, enjoying the peaceful countryside and quiet country lanes surrounding the cottage.

When we split 14 months or so ago, my daily routine absorbed the diy, decorating etc. After 10 years of doing very little, I decorated three rooms and the stairs and landing in the last 14 months. So, when my nephew came over for lunch one Sunday, with a huge picture, I had no worries about hanging it. Piece of cake I thought. A very kind gift. One of my late brother’s watercolours which is beautiful. He was very talented.

A lovely memory of my late brother

A lovely memory of my late brother

As it was quite a large painting, I felt that a picture hook would not be robust enough, so I needed to drill a hole.  Under the wall light. Now, I  wondered, would the electricity cables feed down from the ceiling, or up from the floor?  As the hole I needed to drill was directly under the light, I was a little concerned about electrocuting myself. Wish I had one of those thingeys that would tell you where the wires were. But I didn’t. Okay, use a circuit breaker I thought, then if you do hit a live wire you will just frizzle yourself a little but you wouldn’t go up in a huge puff of smoke!

So I found the circuit breaker and tested it. Miraculous, it was working!  I carefully laid out the extension lead and plugged it in to the circuit breaker. Then found the drill and went to plug it in and discovered ….. it was cordless! What a wally I am, felt so silly. Was so glad there was nobody around to mock me! Is this what happens as you get past 60?

Not to be deterred, I picked the bit that I thought would be the right size and corresponding rawplug. Size 8 drill bit it said on the rawplug, but there was nothing written on the bit or in the lid of the drill box. Ho hum, I thought and tried to drill into the hard, concrete blocks with which the extension was built. After huffing and puffing and putting lots of welly behind it I had drilled just a quarter of an inch. Must need to put it on ‘hammer’ I thought. 10 minutes of fiddling I managed that and carried on, sweating and huffing and puffing. Eventually I drilled in up to the end of the bit. Phew, I thought, that was difficult! Had to put in a smaller rawplug before I could screw in a screw I felt would be man-enough to hold the picture.

It wasn’t until later in the evening when I was eating supper, admiring my brother’s painting, and my handiwork, that I realised that I had drilled the hole with a wood bit, not a masonary one. No wonder it was such hard work. Oh dear, derrrr!


The Liebster Award

Thanks very much to Nic over at The Daphne Tree who has kindly nominated me, as one of her 11 bloggers, for the Liebster Award.

Liebster Award

This Award is for bloggers with fewer than 300 followers (and I don’t think I have any yet, my blog is so new!). A blogger nominates 11 fellow bloggers and asks them a set of 11 questions. The rules state that a nominee must link back to the blogger from whom they received a nomination. The nominee will write 11 random facts about themselves and then answer the 11 questions which have been set for them. They in turn will nominate another 11 bloggers and pose 11 questions to them. This is a really fun way to discover and connect with new bloggers and help us all gain some new followers along the way.

Right, so to start with I have to name 11 random facts about myself. Oh dear, this is going to be difficult!

  1. In 1960 my nanna died and left me £60 with which I bought my first pony
  2. At 19 I went to work in a nightclub in an Italian ski resort (much to my parents’ consternation!)
  3. At 20 I drove Henrietta, my Triumph Herald, in December over the Alps (or was it through them?) and broke down in an Italian ski resort
  4. At 21 Henrietta  and I went down to Rome to find work
  5. I spent six months as a volunteer on a Kibbutz in Israel
  6. In 1980 I moved to East Anglia and set up my own business
  7. I think I love animals more than human beings
  8. I once went for an audition for Blind Date
  9. I hate injustice
  10. I could eat Parma ham until the cows come home
  11. I need at least 8 hours sleep every night!

Ho hum, that wasn’t too bad. Now to tackle the answers to Nic’s questions…..

Why did you start blogging?
As a diary of my coming retirement, for me, friends and family and anybody else who would like to share common interests with me.

Have you ever had a nickname?
None that I know of (goodness knows what people have called me behind my back!)

What is your failsafe dinner recipe?
Carbonnade of beef

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A circus rider

Who do you admire?
Everybody who overcomes a physical, or mental, disability to achieve their goals

Do you read a newspaper?
I get most of my news via the BBC, and read books so I don’t have much time to read a newspaper regularly, but when I do, it’s The Guardian.

What’s your favourite memory?
The first time I went out for a drive, by myself, in my own car. Independence at last!

First crush?
At 9 a boy called David, who grew into a very dishy young man whom my best friend married!

What song is guaranteed to get you on the dancefloor?
Cocaine by Eric Clapton

How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Zillions (too many to admit to!)

If you had a pet tortoise, what would you call it?

The 11 bloggers I would like to nominate are:

Hopefully, none of you have more than 300 followers, it’s so difficult to work out from a blog unless they state the number of followers.

.. and here are your questions:

  1. Who, and what, makes you laugh the most?
  2. What do you consider your biggest life achievement so far?
  3. What is number one on your bucket list?
  4. Which three people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
  5. Your most embarassing moment?
  6. What is your biggest regret?
  7. Where was your favourite holiday, and why?
  8. What makes you cringe?
  9. What advice did your parents give you that you will/or have passed on to your children?
  10. Who would you like to go out with on a blind date?
  11. What do you do to relax ?(Please, nothing smutty lol!)

There you go, hope there’s nothing there that’s too difficult. Oh dear, just read the questions that my sponsor Nic over at The Daphne Tree was given, and I see that I have asked some of the same questions. Never mind, I didn’t pinch them, honestly! Please don’t forget to link my blog into your post. Looking forward to reading your posts and thanks for getting involved.